Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth)
Object of this Act
The object of this Act is to enhance the welfare of Australians through the promotion of competition and fair trading and provision for consumer protection.
Section 3. After section 1 of the Principal Act the following section is inserted:
Object of this Act
"2. The object of this Act is to enhance the welfare of Australians through the promotion of competition and fair trading and provision for consumer protection.".
The introduction of the 'object' provision followed the Hilmer Report in 1993. The Committee discussed the purpose of competiton policy extensively. Its comments included the following:
[page 26] 'In broad terms, competitive conduct rules could have two possible objectives. First, they could be designed to protect the competitive process per se. In such a regime, the effective functioning of the competitive process, and hence economic efficiency and the welfare of the community as a whole, is the primary objective. Consumers and competitors benefit from such rules to the extent that their interests coincide with the interests of the community as a whole.
Secondly, such rules might be cast so as to confer special benefits on a particular sector of the community, whether that be consumers or a particular class of competitors, such as small businesses. Under a regime of this kind, the benefits to the community as a whole are subordinated to the interests of a particular category of beneficiaries.
The Committee unhesitatingly embraces the objective of protecting the competitive process as that most appropriate for the competitive conduct rules of a national competition policy. The rules themselves should not be aimed at favouring particular sectors of society. If such objectives are to be achieved it should be through accommodations to the rules according to the principles and exemption mechanisms discussed in Chapters Five and Six. To the extent that protecting the competitive process does not promote economic efficiency in a particular market, or where other policy goals conflict with economic efficiency and require some trade-off to be made, exemptions from the general rules should also be granted through those exemption mechanisms, such as authorisation.' [emphasis added]
[page 79-80] 'The Committee does not consider that competition policy should be distorted to provide special protection to any interest group, including small business, particularly where this is potentially to the detriment of the welfare of the community as a whole.'
The Explanatory Memorandum to the Competition Policy and Reform Act does not explain the reason for its insertion.